In a colorful supporting cast, which also includes Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson, the arguable stand-out is Mark Ruffalo as a perpetually stoned computer geek charged with erasing Carrey's and Winslet's remembrances of each other. The immediate promise of his breakthrough performance in Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me (2000) was temporarily sidetracked when Ruffalo was diagnosed with -- and successfully treated for -- a brain tumor the following year.
As a result, Ruffalo, 36, lost out on a couple of big movies, including the eventual Colin Farrell blockbuster The Recruit and a gig on Broadway opposite Ashley Judd in a revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He may have missed a shot at becoming a mainstream leading man, but Ruffalo has recently resurfaced back where he was before, as a character actor in indie projects such as XX/XY, My Life Without Me and In the Cut.
Creative Loafing: What drew you to this script?
Mark Ruffalo: First of all, I thought it was one of the best and most original things I'd ever read. I really like how Charlie Kaufman sort of throws out the traditional three-act structure in his scripts. Plus, in some other Hollywood movie, the character I'm playing would've been just a stock clown figure, but it says a lot about Charlie's respect for his characters that he gives all of them their own valid emotional wants and needs.
Director Michel Gondry said he wanted a very open and collaborative atmosphere on the set. What was that like?
Yeah. Michel comes from that whole European tradition of director-as-auteur, and that sort of creative energy was great to be around. Like, he'd call "cut" and then just leave the camera running between takes just to see what might happen. The joy of that was you eventually got so tired of trying to be "on" all the time that after a while, it was like you let down all of your defenses. Of course, I realize now that Michel designed it that way, specifically to break down all of those choices an actor makes about the character and to encourage us to just start being the characters.
Have you ever had the desire to erase anyone from your own memory?
Well, there were probably times when I felt like I wanted to do that, but in retrospect I'm glad that I couldn't. You know, it's that whole learning-from-your-mistakes thing. I think I've landed pretty well as far as love goes, or as far as my life in general goes, for that matter. If I had never had any of those bad experiences, then who's to say I'd be the same person I am right now? I mean, it isn't such a profound observation for me to say that you have to go through certain difficulties to finally find and appreciate what's right for you.
That would seem especially true for you, given your health scare from a couple of years ago.
People who know me have a word for it. They call it getting "ruffaloed," which is this derogatory sort of verb to describe the sort of weird luck I've had. You know, there are a whole lot of different roads that lead to the top of the mountain, and it's been a slow climb for me. Once things finally start coming together for me career-wise, then I get this brain tumor. But I truly believe it's really played in my favor in a weird way. Whatever I've had to go through I pretty much needed to make me the person I am right now. In a lot of ways, I don't think I would've been able to exist in this show business world before now. I didn't have the confidence, frankly. I went on hundreds and hundreds of auditions before ever getting a part, and there's a reason I wasn't getting any of those jobs: I sucked. I guess my philosophy is everyone gets what they need at precisely the time that they need it.
And now you're this month's Esquire cover boy.
Actually, I prefer to call it cover man, if you please. Yeah, it's really odd for me, but I've been informed that it's an important part of this business I'm in, so I let people who are more versed in that area call those shots. Still, I have to admit I was a little bummed to find out you don't get to keep any of those great clothes you wear during the magazine photo shoot.
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